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Dharmaraja News
LADY SARAH SOYSA of Kandy

(Quoted from article that appeared in ‘The Island’ newspaper of 24.5.2013 titled : “Their Life Stories are Songs to Remember” written by Upali Salgado)

-“ Remembered for her personal sacrifice and leadership -

Kandy Girls High School, The Kandy (RC) Convent and Hillwood Girls School were for over 50 years, the leading Christian Girls Schools in Kandy.

Encouraged by Anagarika Dharmapala who founded Dharmaraja College, Kandy, and, with the guidance of Venerable Attadassi Thera of the Mulgampola Temple, Kandy, a lady from the low-country having great ability, resolved to provide Buddhist education for girls in Kandy.

She, Lady Sara Zoyza, stepped forward in about 1920 to found the first Buddhist Girls School in Kandy, named MAHA MAYA COLLEGE, KANDY. She was greatly helped in her endeavour by LADY CHITRAVO RATWATTE, wife of Sir Cuda Ratwatte, who commanded much respect amongst the up-country Kandyan kinsmen. Lady Chitravo was elected the first President of the ‘Sadaachara Kulangana Samithiya’, whose aim was to provide a good education for Buddhist girls. The founder, ‘Live-wire’ of the project and the responsibility of organising the new school, rested squarely on the shoulders of SARAH CAROLINE ZOYSA (nee PEIRIS) a good looking daughter of a Notary Public, who hailed from Aluthgama. She donated a sizeable, valuable block of land with a large building overlooking the Kandy lake, to establish the school.

Most Buddhist of women Kandy that time, especially middle class women in the early 1920’s, were not wage earners. Their contributions had to come from the generosity of their husbands’ pockets or money set a aside after meeting household expenses. To give people an opportunity to participate in the finance drive for the new school, they were requested to the set aside every day, a fistful of uncooked rice into a clay pot. These pots when filled, were later auctioned at carnivals during the Esala festival and brought in much needed money for the school.

To assist Sarah Soysa, for several years there was a capable Graduate teacher on the staff of the School. She was SOMA PUJITHA GUNEWARDENA. She introduced Science to the school, was a strict disciplinarian and gave the school a new outlook for her betterment. Today, the school is considered to be one of the largest and best educational institutes in the Central Province. With education imparted in a Buddhist atmosphere, these three untiring Buddhist women gave HOPE FOR A BETTER LIFE and "LIGHT" to thousands of homes in the Central Province.

Sir Bennet Zoysa (one time Mayor of Kandy and later Knighted), provided most of the required finances, school furniture, medical attention for Boarding House residents, and times, the Teachers’ salaries. Sir Bennet Zoysa was a successful Merchant, who had come from Panadura to Kandy, as a young man to establish himself. Zoysa took a keen interest in Buddhist affairs, and even donated the guilded pinnacle for the Mahiyangana Chetiya, at time of its restoration in 1947.”

RAJANS!

And this Sir Bennet Zoysa, was none other than a most distinguished Old Boys of Daharmaraja College, Kandy. He was the President of the DRC Old Boys’ Union continuously for a very long time. Besides being the Mayor of Kandy for a very long time, he was also a Member of the Senate. His palatial house on Hospital Road, next to the Kandy Hospital, was donated to the Hospital and is now used as a residency for doctors. His photograph was hung among the photographs of distinguished persons of Dharmaraja in the upstairs hall of the Metthananda Building. Sadly it is now missing.

So this Old Rajan contributed in no small measure to the founding of Mahamaya College and its sustenance in its early days. Such was the sense of sacrifice of the old Old Rajans then for the Buddhist cause. That, was the Spirit of Rajans of yore.

It is hoped that the modern generation of Old Rajans and those to come too, will be of the same caliber.

Incidentally, the second Rajan to become a distinguished Mayor of Kandy was Mr. Tilak Ratnayake, father of Tissa Ratayake and his brother. Their sons too are Rajans.

 
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